Monday, September 15, 2014

A Stanky Race Report: Tailwind, Tylenol, and a Terrific Trail 50K

Yesterday, I ran my first trail 50K at the Stanky Creek 50K in Bartlett, TN, to celebrate my 44th birthday, which was on Saturday.

My friends Christie, Harriet, and I drove to Memphis on Saturday afternoon, easily located Nesbit Park for packet pick up, had dinner at a nice restaurant, and settled in for the night at the Fairfield Inn.  It would be their first trail 25K.

I had been looking for a beginner-friendly 50K trail course.  I've run 3 true trail marathons and one that was partly trail, partly gravel road, and I felt ready for the next step distance-wise.  I initially planned to run the Stump Jump 50K in October, but after finding out how many people I know who are faster than me who didn't make the time cut off due to the difficulty of the course, I decided that wouldn't be a wise first 50K.

Stanky Creek, formerly the Bartlett Park Ultra 50K course, is very runnable with little elevation change.  It is a 7.4 mile loop run 4 times, plus a short 1.5ish  loop done only at the start.   Here is the elevation profile of the main loop that we repeated:
It's easy to see why I picked this as my first 50K!   I figured it would take me 7:30-8 hours.

Pre-race pic of us in our Middle Tennessee Trail Runner shirts  On the back is a quote by John Muir: "Of all the paths you choose in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.":

The 50K started at 7:00 a.m.  The weather was just about PERFECT for Tennessee in September-- 56 degrees at the start and about 78 at the finish.  I put myself in the back of the pack.  The 1.5 mile loop went quickly, including a beast of a hill I hiked up.  I purposely went out GENTLY.   A quick trip back through the parking lot, and we started the first 7.4 mile loop.  I immediately noticed the course looked very much like my hometown Rotary Park, where I have done many, many training runs. I felt right at home!  The first 7.4 mile loop seemed very long.  I ran with a girl named Amanda for about one mile, then no one.   I was careful to take in carbs every 45 minutes early on.  I started with my favorite Strawberry Huma Chia gel and consumed Skratch lemon lime hydration.  Both are very gentle on the stomach.   In the last half of the loop, some really fast 25K runners began passing me.  I was happy to see Adam from MTTR in 5th or 6th place.  We crossed this creek near the end of the loop:

It was definitely an odd color, but it didn't seem "stanky" to me.   Both shoes and socks got very wet. The hardest part was getting up that hill on the other side.  It was steep and muddy and now my shoes were wet and muddy, so finding a foothold was tough.  I had to plant my hands in the mud to get up it that first time.   The loop ended, and I was back in the parking lot at my little personal aid station.  I grabbed a couple more gels and refilled my bottle with Skratch.  

Loop 2 was probably my toughest of the day.  At this point all the fast 25K people started passing me.  My left ankle and Achilles and knee all started to hurt.  My knee felt like it had a catch in it.  I tried not to think about it.  My ankle and Achilles had hurt on all trail runs lately, so I wasn't surprised.  I just wondered how bad the pain would get.   I ran this entire loop alone.  I was starting to get a little lonely and lose focus. I knew I had a LONG way to go.  I knew that I needed to just run one loop at a time, but my legs were feeling a bit tired.  I decided that I would turn on my music after finishing this loop. I was also getting blisters on the side of my big toes from the wet Ininji toe socks from the creek crossing.  I decided that sacrificing a few minutes to re-Body Glide my feet and put on dry socks would be worth it.   Preventative care is important!   I hit the 13.1 mark at 3:04:30 by my Garmin.  I was happy with that time.  

At the end of loop 2, around the 15-mile mark, I stopped by my chair and began struggling to get my shoes off with my gaiters still attached (not very effective).  I finally unhooked the back of my gaiters at least.   I got my socks off, applied glide, and began the painstaking process of putting a new pair of toe socks on.  This is not something that can be done quickly. You have to make sure every toe is perfectly aligned in its rightful place.   I also switched the Skratch for some Tailwind with caffeine and took two extra-strength Tylenol (perfectly safe if you only do it once in a race.... except for the part of masking pain and potentially making an injury worse.).   While I was sitting there, I got to see my friend Harriet finish her first trail 25K!  I took off for my 3rd loop very slowly.  Everything had stiffened up in that 4-5 minutes in the chair.  In about 40 steps, I noticed something wasn't right with my sock.  I stopped by someone else's chair and took my shoe off AGAIN to discover my pinky toe wasn't in its toe hole and that portion of the toe sock was all bunched up.  That would have driven me crazy over the next 16 miles! I fixed it and was off, having lost 5-6 minutes off the clock.  Oh well.....

Let me just say Tailwind Raspberry Buzz is the  It has enough calories that you don't really have to take in anything else.  At this point, I'd had about 4 gels, so I was ready for a little break from them.  I started sipping on it and also had a small 1/2 cup of Coke at an aid station. I also turned on my music for the first time of the day.   

Early in loop 3, I was surprised to see my buddy and race director of many of my recent Kentucky races Steve Durbin at an aid station as well as the infamous Lazarus Lake, writer/ultramarathoner/legend.  He's the RD for the Barkley Marathons and author of several books.  It's crazy how small and close-knit the trail and ultrarunning community is!  Steve and I chatted for a minute about my upcoming races. He's the RD for my Tunnel Hill 50-miler in November.  Also at the race were several awesome runners I've met at various trail races over the years--Jen, Anthony, Robin, Shannon, Rob.  It's great to be a part of the trail running community and see familiar faces at races.

I don't know if it was the dry socks, the music, the Coke, the Tailwind, or the Tylenol, but the 3rd loop went well and my spirits were good.  Sipping that Tailwind was a nice break from the gels and really did give me an energy buzz.  Thanks to the Tylenol, everything stopped hurting, and I just felt HAPPY out on the trail.  I ran mostly, hiked the hills, and just enjoyed myself.  At the 20-mile mark, I texted my husband for the first time that day to let him know I was alive.  Getting to 20 miles was another boost.  There's something magical about the 20-mile mark.  I crossed the creek a 3rd time.  I knew I was going to finish this thing, and I was excited! 

I didn't stop by the chair (the chair is not your friend!) after the 3rd loop.  I powered on through with my now wet new socks.  I texted my friends to let them know I was starting my final loop.  They had gone back to the hotel and showered and to lunch after their 25K and were coming back to get me.  I did some shaky calculations and figured out that if I pushed a bit, I could get a trail marathon PR on my way to finishing this 50K.  So, I pushed.   My half marathon was 3:04:30 and my full marathon was 6:09:38.  I'm not sure how that happened, but those are pretty even splits.  I thought I might slow down after the marathon point and just hike it in, but I was feeling too good.  I kept pushing.

It was neat when I passed the 27-mile mark.  I was in new distance territory on a trail.  I began to wonder if I could finish this in under 7:10?   In those last miles, I passed 9 people, most of them men.  People were just done, and I was coming to life.  Mile 28 was my 3rd fastest of the day.   This same thing happened at my June ultra.  Those later miles were my best miles.  I had a couple of small cups of Coke at an aid station, but I was just drinking water in my bottles.  I choked down an Accel Gel around mile 27 (strawberry kiwi) that tasted wonderful, but the consistency was tough to swallow.  It contains protein and tasted just like sweetened condensed milk (if you like that sort of thing).   It did seem to give me a burst of energy though.  I was singing out loud and just clicking the miles off.  Happy trail selfie:  

In Mile 28, I realized that I was not only going to finish this thing, but I was going to surpass my original "best day ever" goal time of 7:30 by A LOT and was on track to beat 7:10.  I felt strong and empowered and proud of myself.   I had been in the woods running primarily alone for almost 7 hours.  I had gone through a low spot and came out of the valley.  Though I would finish HOURS after the winner, it was a victory for me.

I crossed that darn creek one last time, scrambled up the mud hill, and was on the finishing stretch. I knew if I pushed, I could make it under 7:05.  I came out of the trail to the cheers of my friends.  7:04:32.  I ran as hard as I could down the length of the parking lot on legs that already had 31.3 miles on them.   I crossed the finish line of flour at 7:04:48.  Whew,  

It was a GOOD DAY.  The looped course worked well for me mentally as it broke the race up into chunks.  I'm so glad I chose Stanky Creek 50K as my first!  My friend Jen and I at the finish:  

I'm glad I spent some time in the dirt this weekend.  I think 44 is going to be a good year.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Journey into Unknown Territory: Ultramarathon Training

Unknown Territory is a frightening thing.  

In two weeks, I'm running my first trail 50K the day after my 44th birthday.  That is Unknown Territory for me.

I've run 4 trail marathons over the last two years, and in each one, I was seriously DONE at mile 26.  The feet- hurting, hip-flexors-failing, quads-burning, hamstrings-tightening kind of DONE. Trails are HARD!! Running thirty-one miles on a trail will definitely be a challenge.

But just as 5K runners find themselves signing up for that first 10K and half marathoners sign up for their first full after they have a few races under their belt, I felt ready for the next trail distance challenge when I registered a few months ago. Unfortunately, my trail training hasn't been going great.  About 6 miles into trail runs lately, my left ankle starts aching, but it's fine on road runs. My longest trail run this month was only 10 miles (yikes!).  However, I've had a 49-mile week and a 42-mile week that included a mix of roads and trails and running and hiking.  Have I put in enough trail miles to survive the unknown territory of a trail 50K? There is only one way to find out!  Between now and the race, I plan to just run on roads and hike on trails for short distances to let that ankle heal. With just two weeks until the race, the training is in the bank or it isn't.  Starting on fresh legs with a healed ankle seems to be the smartest thing I can do right now.   I'm really starting to get excited about this challenge.  Pain is probably inevitable in a trail 50K, but as they say, "suffering is optional."

Then in 10 weeks or so, I'm running my first 50-miler.  I must admit that I feel like I'm "training scared."   It's hard to comprehend almost doubling the marathon distance!

This month, out of respect (fear?) of the 50-mile distance, I've trained pretty hard.  I've alternated high mileage (for me) weeks with moderate mileage weeks.  I've experimented with back-to-backs runs of 21/8 and 8/20 on weekends at the end of the heavy mileage weeks.  I've run when I was tired and didn't feel like it.  I've run when I was sick.  I've run on no sleep.  I've persevered in the misery of Tennessee August heat and humidity. (Somebody slap me if I try to register for another late summer/fall ultramarathon knowing what our summers are like!)  I can definitely say I know what it's like to run on tired legs.  But I've also run some WONDERFUL miles.  I've relished spending hours running and talking with friends.  I've had time to think.  I've seen some beautiful trails and even some pretty nice roads.  I've explored new places. I've come back renewed more than wrung out many times.  I ended August with 166 determined miles after 124 in July.

Despite the rather large increase in mileage, I will say I'm training GENTLY overall. With my autoimmune condition (Hashimoto's), I'm being careful not to overtrain.  I'm not running fast very often.  I'm not trying to increase endurance and speed at the same time.  I do add in some interval training or a tempo run when the mood strikes (rarely).  I had the pleasure and surprise of running a random 8:40 mile the other night (my 5K pace on a good day).

I think three weeks after the 50K, when my legs have come back to life, I will run the Southern TN Power Classic in Winchester, TN and just see what happens.  I need a 25-26 mile long run anyway.   I've had three marathons in the 4:30's and 4:40's, but the last couple of marathons have been in the 4:50's.  Will all this endurance training allow me a faster finish?  I don't know, but I'm sort of excited to find out.  I may even run it on feel, without my watch.

I think the toughest of my 50 miler training may be over, honestly.  The weather is cooling. My legs are recovering faster.  My upcoming 50K and marathon will be exciting-- full of people and in new places-- plus give me the long runs I need.  One more weekend with back-to-backs should get me there, don't you think? The weekend of Oct 25, I'd like to get in 40 miles over Fri/Sat/Sun. I'm planning 25 miles that Saturday (also my anniversary). My husband will join me for 10 or so, and my friend Michelle will finish up the last 15 with me. (What a way to celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary!)

Then I'll taper the next three weeks and start that 50-mile run into unknown territory with fresh legs, excitement, and hopefully, courage.    

After that, I will take it easy through the end of the year.  Then I hope to focus on non-ultra distances for a while.  I haven't run a 5K in a year and a half, and it's been two years since my last 10K.  I want to just have fun for a bit and maybe build some speed in the process.  A fast marathon or half marathon would be nice.   Yes, I'm already planning 2015!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

What a View from the Top of a Mountain! Chuckanut Mountain Half Marathon Race Report

Last week, I flew across the country with my 13-year old son to visit some wonderful friends and former next-door neighbors, who now live Tacoma, Washington.  My friend was one of the inspirations for me starting to run seven years ago, and she happened to be signed up for the Chuckanut Mountain Half Marathon during the time we could visit.   I jumped at the opportunity to run in the Pacific Northwest with her!

It was my first visit to the PNW, and I made the most of the five days I had there.  After a few days of seeing the sights in Tacoma and Seattle, we headed to the beautiful town of Bellingham, Washington, home of Chuckanut Mountain.  We drove the two-and-a-half hours north on Saturday afternoon, checked into our hotel, picked up our race packets, and then spent the evening visiting shops, walking around, and enjoying dinner at a fabulous restaurant on the water.

The Chuckanut Mountain Marathon is billed as the "toughest marathon in the Pacific Northwest," so I was glad we signed up for the half!   After I signed up, my  high school friend Stacy, who lives in Bellingham, also signed up.  We met up with Stacy and his wife for dinner on Saturday evening.  We had 26 years of catching up to do!

Race morning arrived, and Rebecca and I found the mountain.  I spent a few minutes wandering around while she was charging her phone.  I found a sign that said Beach, and hiked down for this view:

A few minutes later, we ran into Stacy and his wife and kids.  His kids did the 1K race just before ours.  Here we all are just before the start:

To prepare to run up a MOUNTAIN, I tried to train on as many hills as I could, but Clarksville, TN just doesn't have any mountains.  I had a pretty good amount of elevation change in two 13-mile trail training runs at Beaman Park and Rotary Park though.  I also ran the Jackal trail marathon (no big hills really though) in June.  I practiced power hiking.  Oh, and I did lots of squats!  

The first four miles of the race were not what I expected.  They were down a gravel road, which kind of reminded me of my training spot, the Cumberland Bicentennial Trail.  I suppose I expected views of lakes and mountains right away.   This is around mile 4, when we had to cross a road to enter the real trail.

Soon after mile four, our climbing began and the scenery changed dramatically.  Now, this is what I was imagining!   Ferns were everywhere.  Huge old growth trees dwarfed us.  

Some areas of the trail were smooth, others were rocky and rooty.  Once, I had to climb up a huge, flat boulder.  My training paid off.  There were only a couple of really steep sections that stole my breath.  At the top---this view was amazing.  We stopped for many pictures.  This might have been a 24-minute mile on my Garmin......  Worth it.  

How crazy is it to be ABOVE the trees???  And these weren't any little trees, either!   I was a little apprehensive of being so close to the edge of the rock I was standing on.  I did peer over the edge for just a sec!  That's Mount Baker in the background, I think.  

Two crazy climbs and then we started to descend.  My two trail-running, Washington-living friends were BOMBING down the trails at full speed.  I was mincing down them.  I just haven't trained for technical downhills enough to let go.  For me, letting go on a downhill equals about a 98% chance of falling! 

Not that my run was completely free of falls!!  At some point around mile 10.5, a huge tree had fallen over the trail.  We couldn't go under it, so we had to climb across it.   My 6ft tall friend did this with ease.  I wound up sort of straddling the tree awkwardly (both feet dangling off the ground) and sort of slid over to the other side.  My right foot landed on solid ground.  Unfortunately, my left foot landed on a big, wet, mossy, slanted rock.  The second I put my weight on it to take a step, I went DOWN on my left side.  Hard.  Water bottle flew out of my left hand.  I was stunned for a second, but hopped back up.  The damage wasn't too bad.  The side of my knee was bleeding from slamming into the rock, and I had trail rash on the back of my thigh and palm of my left hand.  

About a half mile later, though, my left ankle was really hurting.  It definitely twisted at an awkward angle as I was slipping off that slanted rock.  I just tried to ignore the pain. We didn't have any more climbing after mile 11, just net downhill.  Mile 13 was a steep downhill (again, not my forte), and I just tried to be careful.  I tripped once on a steep section and went flying briefly, but landed on my feet.   13.1 came and went.  Stacy and I crossed the finish line at 13.9 miles, around 3:40.  My friend was just a few minutes behind us.  WE represented the LCHS Class of '88 well!  

The next morning, my sore legs and I flew home to Tennessee.  I loved my trip to the PNW!  If it didn't rain 9 months of the year, I think I could live there.  

I cannot wait to climb my next mountain!!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Thoughts from the Trail: Backass Jackal Trail Marathon Race Report

Today, I ran the Backass Jackal Trail Marathon in Jackson, TN.  I ran this race last year in 6 hours and 43 minutes.  My goals this year were to run smarter, finish stronger, and beat that time WHILE enjoying the trail and the beauty of God's creation.  I love being in the woods.  It feels like home.

This was a 3.75 mile course that 18 of us had to run 7 loops of.

Here are a few thoughts from each loop.

Loop 1:  Even though it is in the 70's at the 7:00 a.m. and about 90% humidity, it doesn't feel hot yet. My legs feel good.  I need to relax and remember to run within myself these first two loops.  Yay, for once I didn't go out too fast!  

Loop 2:  I love trails.  Trails are my best friend.  Is that a snake???  It is so beautiful out here.  This is great.  Is that a snake???   I feel so at home out on the trail.  Is that a snake?  I'm feeling good.  Is that a snake???   (A copperhead was spotted on the trail the day before!)

Loop 3:  I am still feeling great!  These loops are flying by.  I love running!!!

Loop 4:   Where did my energy go?   My legs are moving in slow motion.  I'm going to power hike for a while.  What the heck is that buzzing around my head??  (Sprinting and flailing commence.)   Oh, good grief!  It won't give up!   (I round a corner quickly and almost hit my head on a tree.)   It's gonna sting meeeeee!!!   I bet I look like I'm having a seizure.  Oh, thank God, it's finally gone.  I think I'll walk some more.  I have to remember to put this in my blog.  :-)

Loop 5:   Running is hard.  My ankles and Achilles officially do not like me anymore. Why do I keep signing up for races???  It's hot.  The real feel of 94 is  here.  My feet hurt.  

Loop 6:  (Had a few swigs of Mountain Dew before this loop).   Whoo-hoo!!  I'm feeling better.  I'm running FAST.  Look at me!!!!  This is so fun!!  

Loop 7:   (More Mountain Dew.)  Almost done!  I'm so hungry!!  I'm so ready to be done.  My everything hurts.  EEEEK! Oh, it's just an earthworm.  I can't breathe.  It's HOTTTTT.  This air is too thick to breathe.  I feel nauseous and a little dizzy.  Should I hike a little while?  Nah,  I'm finishing strong.   Last little bit---I'm going to sprint it in!  

Immediately after that sprint:  Thank God it's over.  I can't breathe.  

One minute later:  That was GREAT.  A 27-minute PR over last year!!!  My A-goal was 6:15, but I'll take 6:16:42!  I'm hurting but happy.  Time to hit the chair.

A few minutes later:  I'm scared to take off my socks.  I hope my second toenail is still attached.

A couple of seconds later:  Nope.  Well, partially.  EEEW.  That's nasty.  I think I'll cut it the rest of the way off with these nail scissors in my bag.  (Which I did.)  Wow, that looks hideous.  I'll have hide it with a bandaid for the next 3 months.   "Hey, ya'll, I just CUT OFF my toenail with scissors!!  Anthony, come look at my toe!"

An hour later changing clothes in the backseat of the car: (I scraped the 2nd toenail from the other foot on the back of the seat.)  Are you kidding me? ??  That one, too??  Ok, half of it is still attached.   I think I will leave it alone.  

On the drive home:    My toenails all hurt.  Well, I guess not ALL of them.  (Wild laughter at myself.)  That was hilarious.  I think I will look into having those two permanently removed.  

Here are a few pictures from the final loop.  I was running hard, but I took time to take a few pics, mostly while in motion  (possibly contributing to missing that 6:15 goal... Whatever.)

One of my favorite spots.  Pine needles covered the ground making for soft running, but not much shade!

It was so green and lush.

Look, the trail has it's own mosquito breeding facility:
Tall and skinny trees do not make much shade, but they are cool looking at least.
Kind of rain-foresty (in my mind).
Just such a pretty spot.
Tired, happy, and toenail-less.  (Well, I still have 8 that are fairly solid.  For now.....)   

Friday, June 13, 2014

Painful, Wonderful Miles--Run Under the Stars Race Report

Last Saturday evening, I gathered with 190 other runners at my 3rd Run Under the Stars 10-hour timed event.  That is where I ran my first 50K and 60K during the last two years.   There is a 1/2 mile horse track made of crushed limestone, and we run in ovals around it from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.   It's strangely fun.

I knew LOTS of people on the course this year, and in some ways it felt like a reunion.  Here are several from Run It Fast.  I might have nabbed this from Instagram:

There was a group of four of us who traveled from Clarksville, plus at least four other Clarksville runners there I knew.  A few of them--

At 8:00 p.m. there was allegedly a tornado warning in the area, but we started anyway.  Storms and rain had rolled through earlier, and the humidity was THICK.   I had a plan to stay at a 12:30 pace those early miles, to Run Gently.   I had to walk some each mile to keep pace at that rate, which was good for me.  I walked in those early miles to finish stronger!  I tried to stay on nutrition and hydration, but forgot to take in any calories until 59 minutes had passed.  I intended to take in calories every 45 minutes!  I also had some stomach, um, issues twice during the first 10 miles.  I was worried that was going to continue, but it didn't, thank goodness!

The first 13 miles went by, and I finished 13 in 2:47. I needed to be at 13 miles by 3:00 hours to stay on my goal pace.  I was quite ahead!   My normal half marathon time is around 2:10 or so.  I was being smart.  At 13, I decided my Hokas were putting too much pressure on my toes, and I needed to change.  When I bent over to change shoes, I got horrible CRAMPS in both glutes and my right pectoral muscle!! Ouch.  I noticed my legs were coated with salt.  I knew what the  problem was.  I popped two salt caps and made more of an effort to drink the Heed or Gatorade they offered at the aid station.

Miles 14-26 were from 11:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m., roughly.  This is sometime before midnight:

 I wasn't feeling fabulous during these miles in terms of energy, but my spirits were GREAT.  I got really sleepy around midnight.  I brought out the Coke and Mountain Dew about this time.  Then I perked up.  :-)   They turn off the lights on much of the track around midnight, and I LOVE that for some odd reason.    At mile 26, I decided to change shoes again.  I knew I had a big blister on my second toe on my right foot and a hot spot on the bottom of the left.  This time, I wanted to change socks, too, and repowder/Body Glide my feet.

I took my sock off and was shocked at what I found.  My 2nd toe had on a blister helmet all around and under and below the nail. It was crazy.  It was probably the worst blister I'd ever had.  (Then it got much worse later!)  I debated back and forth with my friend Lucas about popping it or leaving it alone, but now that I knew it was there, it was all I could think about!  At mile 27, it felt like it was going to explode with every step.

I went to the food table to ask if they had a first aid kit.  It took us a while to locate a needle and then to figure out how to sterilize it.  (Someone had a lighter in his car, then he couldn't find his keys.  Then we realized there were alcohol pads in the first aid kit and that a bib pin would have to do.)   I spent 12-15 minutes at the aid station, but I popped and drained the blister.  It hurt actually more in the miles just after popping, then felt better.  ***The only two times I sat down that whole 10 hours were to change socks and to pop my blister.  "Beware the Chair."

I was a bit panicked after losing 12-15 minutes at that point.  My 26 mile goal was supposed to be 6 hours, and I had missed that by about 5 minutes.  Now, I was about 20 minutes behind.  I was afraid my goal of running 40 miles was slipping away.   In the years before, I had run 31.5 (and stopped) and 38.5.  I found myself in the "negotiation stage" and telling myself I'd be happy with 39 or 39.5.   But I knew I had to get to 40!!

Attempting to do math at mile 28 of an all-night ultramarathon is difficult.  I was trying to figure out how much time I had left and what pace I had to do to get there.  I finally figured out at some point, I had to average 16:30 miles.  That should be no problem, but that included eating, drinking, restroom stops (several steps off the track), shoe changes, etc.  But I had HOPE.  And that made ALL THE DIFFERENCE.  At mile 30, I got a second wind.  In fact, I felt stronger at mile 30 than I did at mile 15!  Miles 30-40 were AMAZING miles for me.  I was so focused and single minded and determined.  I was walking 2 segments per lap (so four walk breaks per mile) and still averaging about 13:57 per mile.  I was well under the 16:30 in every single mile, even with two restroom stops during those miles.   I'm not a super- fast walker, so I must have been running pretty decently in those miles.   I remember being pleasantly surprised at how well my body was doing in miles 30-40.

I reached mile 40 with about 24 minutes left on the clock.  I knew I could get in another mile, and if I kept it around a 15 minute pace, I could get a final 1/2 mile loop for 41.5.


Apparently, my brain sent a memo to my legs at mile 40 that we were finished, because all the energy and strength they'd had was no more.   I mostly walked that 41st  mile at about a 16:30 pace.  When I got to the clock, there was about 7 minutes left on it.  I knew I didn't have a 14 minute mile pace in me (even for a single lap), so I called it a night.  (Or morning, technically.)

I felt so happy, so SATISFIED with this experience.  Things didn't go perfectly---stomach trouble in the early miles, blistered feet, lost time performing blister surgery, but I rallied and came back strong.  I was proud of me, and that is a good feeling.  Isn't that why we do this???

 Well, hello, chair!!

I was so thankful for all of my friends this night--both old and new.  We told stories, talked running, teaching, kids, and blisters.  They made 10 hours and 41 miles such a fun journey.  I passed many miles with some great runners.  I got to see three friends run their first distance over 26.2.  I got to see the fastest runners over and over when they passed me, and it meant so much when they took time to offer encouragement.  

You may want to avert your eyes for this last part.  That big blister I popped at mile 27 and never looked at again?  It grew.  

That is one gnarly blister!  On the other foot, I suffered a blister on the bottom the size of a half dollar, a smaller 2nd toe blister, and my big toenail is bruised and lifted.  Here I am 6 days later, and the big toenail still hurts and this toe still hurts.  It was a small price to pay though.  TOTALLY WORTH IT.   :-)

I finished 45th out of 191 in overall distance.  I am pretty happy with that!  
Marathon/ultramarathon #15
Ultra #3
Personal Long
9 hours, 52 minutes 59 seconds

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Fairly Impromptu Rotary Park Trail Half Marathon

On Tuesday, my friend Andrea and I were hiking at one of my favorite trails, and I said, "Hey, I'd like to do a trail half marathon here sometime."   She said, "That would be great."  We usually run anywhere between 3 and 6 miles together on trails once or twice a week.  We run far together on roads--anywhere from 9 to 15 miles during any given training cycle, but for some reason, we always stop around six miles on our trail runs.   I said, "How's Saturday?"   The next thing we knew, we were planning Andrea and Donna's Rotary Park Trail Half Marathon or ADRPTHM.  Andrea's one of those GREAT kinds of friends who is up for anything.  Don't we all need one of those??

I invited several other friends to join us to help pass the miles.  And by several, I mean six.  The trail running community here is fairly small, especially on the female side.  I invited just about every trail chick I could think of, all five of them.  One came!  My neighbor and long-time running buddy Christie joined us.  The male side of the trail runners I know are all generally too fast for us to keep up with.  However, my neighbor and total trail beast Jeff generously came out and blazed a great and challenging 4.5 mile route for us.  He'd run ahead.  Stop.  Wait.  We'd catch up.  It involved this long serpentine hill of switchbacks over a very long time, followed by another fairly large hill.  It was great training for my upcoming trail races (Chuckanut Mountain Half Marathon, Rock and Root 18 miler, and Stump Jump 50K---I seemed to have missed scheduling a 26.2 in there....)

We really had fun out there.  Andrea and I ran fairly well on the first 4.5 mile loop trailing behind Jeff (nice pun....).  We did well on the first part of the second loop on our own until we confused a turn and wound up backtracking here and there and wandering in circles, then going back our original way after we decided it was, indeed, the correct route all along.  (It happens.  More than I'd like to admit....)   We made it back to our cars at 10.1 instead of 9.  I wouldn't say we were LOST per se, just couldn't recall where the route we were supposed to be on went.  We knew kind of where we were for the most part.  (Convinced?  NOT lost.)

I'm not going to lie, the last three were not pretty, especially the last one.  We had both had few carbs and with stopping by our car "aid station" a couple of times and taking pics and hitting the CLEANEST. PORTOJOHN*. EVER., we'd been out there a LONG time.  (*Runners really appreciate a fresh port of john.  Really.)   But we had good conversation and kept running (albeit slower and slower near the end), and it was a success.

Zero snakes.
One blister.
Five challenging hills.
One sore toenail.
13.1 miles on a gorgeous trail.

It was a GOOD day.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

You Get What You Train For---Viola Valley Half Marathon Race Report

Yesterday, I ran the Viola Valley Half Marathon in beautiful Viola, TN.  The whole family and I had gone to Manchester, TN, the night before and spent the night with my in-laws, who were only about 32 minutes from Viola.  

I got up at dark o'clock (4:30 a.m.) and left the house at 5:30.  It was chilly at 46 degrees, with a threat of rain.  I got to watch the sun rise over gorgeous country roads and arrived just after 6:00 a.m.  The race was well organized, and packet pick up went smoothly.  I ran into my running buddies Kathy and Michelle from Clarksville (in the portopotty line---of course!) and took pics with Justin and Angie from a FB page I follow, Run365. Justin and I had met at Go Commando last October and ran 10 miles of it together.   Then I ran into Bill and Diane, from Run It Fast, whom I had met last summer.   

We started, and by mile 2 or 3, I heard "Sunshine!"   My good friend George Boxley was coming up from behind.  He made my night last year at the Run Under the Stars when he'd call me "Sunshine"  every time he passed me on the 1/2 mile course. How can you not smile when someone calls you "Sunshine"?    At one point for a mile or so, Justin, George, Kathy, Michelle, and I were all running in a large group.  I think that was one of my favorite parts!   It was short-lived though.   Justin and I fell back at a water stop, and George and Kathy pulled away. Michelle was right in the middle, and we passed a few miles together.  She wound up beating ALL of us, with a strong surge in the later miles!

I was running about a 9:45/pace for most of the first 6 miles, with a 9:38 mile in there somewhere.  The course rolls and rolls.  I noticed my breathing was louder than I'd like around miles 5 and 6.  Mile 6 was my last mile in the sub-10 range.  In miles 7 and later, I slowed down to a 10, 10:10, and even and a couple way off my goal pace of 10-minute miles---10:28 and 10:31.  I think those were miles 8 and 9, always my toughest miles.  I wound up running alone after about mile 7.   I fought tired legs and hills and stomach upset a bit in those miles, but got it together and ran 10-minute miles for the last couple.  The best part was, other than a few sprinkles, the rain held off until I was in my car on the way back to Manchester!

This half-marathon was 9.5 minutes slower than one I ran in October. However,  I can't be too upset.  You get what you train for.  At that one, I was coming off four months of speed work and hard, HARD training.  For this one-- My last half-marathon was April 5.  I had a terrible 12-miler the following week with tons of IT band pain, and that was when the doc ordered me to take a little break for 4-6 weeks.  I've had several good 3, 5, and 6 milers in the hiatus of 5 weeks.  I had an ok 8 miler and a pretty bad 9 miler, nowhere near a 10-minute pace, about a week and a half before the race.   So, I think it's to be expected that I would run well the first 6 or 7 miles, then struggle.  I am proud, however, that I got it together in the last couple of miles.  I finished by my garmin at 2:11:04, a 9:59 pace, for 13.12.   I think my official finish is 2:11:09 or something.  I must have delayed hitting the start button a few seconds or something.  I realize now that I could have gone out a few seconds slower, maybe 9:55, and struggled less during the later miles of the race.   

It was a good test. I walked a few of the rolling hills throughout and also through many of the water stops. I made my pace goal of averaging 10-minute miles.  I would have LIKED to come in sub 2:10, but I was aware that 2:12 was more realistic.  The IT band made its presence known at mile 9, but never really hurt.  It just tightened up.  It was a little tight and achy last night and this morning.   

A few pics.  I thought this tiny town hall was cute!  

These are a couple of pics from the beautiful course, courtesy of Justin Stroud.  Seriously, it is a gorgeous run!   

It isn't always a "great day," but I love running and the running community.  I enjoy watching sunrises and seeing 13 or 26 miles of a new place on foot.  It's nice to cross starting lines and even nicer to cross finish lines.  Running adds so much to my life.  It may not feel like it at the time, but every mile is a blessing.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Injury, Recovery, and a New Direction for My Running

I haven't blogged in a while.   Most of 2014, I have been plagued with pain outside my right knee (and sometimes the left as well) at the point of IT band insertion.   I have a swollen bursa (fluid-filled) sac at Gerdy's Tubercle, the little bony protrusion on the outside of my knee.  It feels like a stabbing pain at times; other times, it's a dull burn.  I'm pretty darn excited that I self-diagnosed it based on information I found on the Internet. When I finally went to the doc in April, Dr. Kurt Kowalski and my physical therapist Dave confirmed that's what it was.

The stabbing pain had started on my VERY FIRST RUN of 2014, a 15-miler on my favorite Rails to Trails route.  After that, it hurt off and on, usually at miles 14+ of pavement runs.  It didn't bother me on my trail marathon or trail 23K.  It REALLY hurt during the later miles of the Greenway Marathon in March (all pavement).  Two weeks later,  I ran the Oak Barrel Half Marathon with my husband in early April without pain.  It was a very hilly course, and I was relieved that the IT band didn't hurt at all.  I was proud that Hubby ran a personal best that day.  We ran every step together for a 2:16 finish.  I thought maybe the IT issue was healed or that it was an issue that would only bother me in marathons.  Then it started hurting on 5-milers.  Then 3-milers.  That's when I went to the doc.

I went to see Dr. Kurt about two weeks before I was planning to run a 50K at the Run for Kids Challenge on a very beginner-friendly course.  He nixed it and said to run only short distances on primarily soft surfaces.  However, when your ortho doc is a Boston Qualifier who longs tons of miles a week, you should probably ask him to define what "short distances" means.   For a couple of weeks I ran 4 miles and under, then I added some 6-9 mile runs.  Mostly, the IT band felt ok.  (Well, in full disclosure, it hurt starting at mile 7.5 of the 9-miler last Wednesday, but just a little!) I also went to two physical therapy visits to get some strengthening exercises for my left side (weakness there makes my right leg work harder- the potential root of the problem).  He also gave me some stretches and pointers on KT tape.  He made me realize I need to do more strength work, and I have been.  I am glad to be back to circut/strength training.  I didn't realize how much I'd missed it.   I've sort of enjoyed these short, but intense runs over the last month!

This weekend will be the TEST.  I'm running the Viola Valley Half Marathon that I was registered for last year, but didn't run.  It is a hilly, paved 13.1 miles.  My longest run since early April has been 9 miles.  I don't know how my endurance will hold up or how the IT will feel.  But I NEED to know these things.  I need a baseline for my current endurance/speed/health.

I've run 66 races (assuming I remembered to log them all on here), and I'm inexplicably excited about this one-- my 23rd half marathon.   I guess it's because I've been struggling for a while with my running.  First, I had energy issues due to Hashimoto's (an auto-immune disease that causes hypothyroidism in me).  Then, I couldn't run without pain.  Now, I just want a baseline to see where my body is.

It's predicted to be 48 and 70-80% chance of rain during the race.  Those are not my favorite conditions!  But, I don't care.  I'm ready to run.  I crave the long-distance run.  I love that completely wrung out feeling at the end of races.

Since my IT feels 80% better, I've made BIG PLANS this week.  I have a race a month scheduled for the next few months.  Funny, all of the races after this weekend that I'm currently registered for are on a trail (or crushed limestone at Run Under the Stars). I want to become a TRAIL BEAST!!!   Here are my upcoming events after Viola Half.  These are all registered and paid for so, there will be no waffling!

JUNE-Run Under the Stars 10-hour Endurance Event in Paducah, KY,  We will run a 1/2 mile horse track from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.  Fun!!  The plan is to not re-injure this IT with the counter-clockwise circles (Dr. K said that could be bad).  I might get to 40 miles this year, I might not.....

JULY-Chuckanut Trail Half Marathon in Bellingham, WA.  I'm visiting a friend, and we are running this race together, along with a high school friend of mine, who happens to live there!  3,000 feet of climb over 13.1.  INTENSE!!

AUGUST-Rotary Park 4-5 mile NIGHT trail run with my 13-year old son. Headlamps required!  Fun!!

SEPTEMBER- Rock and Root 30K in Oak Ridge, TN.   The Hill of Truth (run up it twice!) looks interesting.  25% grade at times.  Yikes!

OCTOBER- Stump Jump 50K trail race in Chattanooga, TN.   This one scares me.  It will be my first attempt at 50K on a trail.  Last year, most participants were attacked by yellow jackets.  Some got 12 or more stings!    Also, the course is really challenging.   There are many easier courses for a first trail 50K.   But, I picked this one.  My friend Ryan said to "Train like Hell" for this one.  I plan to.   Honestly, I'm very intimidated by this race, the bees, the difficulty of the course, and the 9-hour cut-off.  (17 minute pace should be doable unless the wheels fall off and roll away--which could happen!)   But sometimes you just have to do THIS:

After that?   I dunno.  Maybe a road race!   Midsouth Marathon in November looks good, and there is always the Flying Monkey Marathon that I need to redeem.

Run happy, my friends!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Nashville Greenway Marathon Race Report-- Marathon #14

A few weeks ago, I ran the Nashville Greenway Marathon on a chilly Sunday morning.  I had never been on the Nashville Greenway before even though I live only an hour or less from several trail heads.  I didn’t really know what to expect except a few hills.

My 13-year old caught a stomach bug on Tuesday of race week, and sure enough, it hit me on Thursday.  It wasn’t a bad one, but I wasn’t at 100% by the Sunday start.  Almost though.   I ran two easy miles on Saturday to test my tummy and to shake out my legs.

A small group of about 94 or so of us started at 7:30 a.m.  I knew about 6 or 7 runners and 3 volunteers.  It’s always nice to see friendly faces at races out of town!   I tried to hold back somewhat in the first few miles, averaging around 10:15 or so.  In hindsight, I probably should have run more like 10:25 or 10:30 per mile early on as a warm up.  (My best training run had been 18 miles at a 10:28 pace though.)  It’s just hard to know. 

Somewhere between miles two and three, I saw a runner just ahead whom I kind of “knew” through Facebook and Twitter and mutual friends.  I sped up and caught him and introduced myself.  As it turned out, he had also had a virus in the last few days and was not feeling very well at all.  He was considering turning around and running back to the start.  He said he’d decide for sure at 8 miles.   We chatted and the miles passed quickly.  I was aware that I was running more his (sick day) pace than mine, but I was enjoying the conversation.  There were a few spots where the course wasn’t very well marked, and I was glad to run with someone who knew the Greenway route.   Race-day buddies are always fun.  You find out things in common like you are both parents of three kids, you have run some of the same races in the past, and of course you share your philosophy of running and races you hope to do and tell race stories from ones you have run.   There is never a shortage of conversation (or maybe that’s just me!).   I have been blessed to pass many, many miles with a new friend in many of my 14 marathons. 

We were running somewhere around a 10-minute pace—sometimes 9:55, sometimes more like 10:10 for a long time.  The eight-mile-mark came and went, and my friend kept going.  Around mile 12 or 13, the pace really caught up to me—much earlier than it should have, honestly.  I began to fade.  Legs felt heavy.  Energy was flagging.  Ugh, that’s the PATTERN I’ve had in all of my recent marathons.  Things are hard earlier than they should be.  Yes, I often go out a bit too fast (but not crazily so), but that wall just keeps on moving earlier!   I’m hydrating.  I’m taking in carbs every 40 or 45 minutes.  But it is as if those carbs never make it to my muscles in the form of energy!  It feels much like the way I feel on a carb-depleted run.   However, on those runs, I am usually running slower.  Hmmm....

Finally, around 14, I had faded to a 10:30 or 11:00 min mile pace, and my friend was feeling better, so he went on.   My body was saying STOP and walk.  I began to run/walk.  It was as if my legs couldn’t run another step, but I forced them to keep moving.  I remember at mile 16 thinking I could just walk the rest of the way and trying to figure out how long that would take!

When I saw the mile 20 sign, though, it was as if the cloud lifted a bit.  There is something MAGICAL about seeing that 20-mile-marker.  You know you are going to be alright.   It may be painful, but you’ve come that far, and there’s just a 10K left.  I started running more and more.  I ran fairly well in the last two miles of the race, especially.  At that point, “running well” means an 11:30 pace, but not walking any or much at all.
I didn’t get really discouraged when things fell apart.  Things have fallen apart in my last 3 road marathons.  I think I’m getting used to it!   It happens and you just dig deep and FINISH.   Around mile 20, I knew I could probably come in under 5 hours if I didn’t walk too much.  For me, under 5 hours is still an OK day.  Under 4:45 is a good day.  Under 4:36 would be a GREAT day.   It’ll happen sometime…. Maybe.  I kept my emotions under control though and enjoyed the beauty of much of the course.  There were some really scenic areas along fields and the river.  I was really impressed with this beautiful greenway and plan to return to run there again!

This was my first full marathon since my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis diagnosis on February 28.   It is an autoimmune disease in which my immune system is attacking my thyroid.  The thyroid gland regulates metabolism and energy and endurance.  I PRAY that falling apart around mile 13 isn’t my new normal.   I don’t want to run strictly half marathons.  I want to run marathons and ultramarathons.   I can let go of the idea of running fast a little easier if I get to run FAR.  I just have to adjust my expectations a bit, I’m afraid.  Maybe faster times are ahead of me, maybe they are behind me.   Symptoms of Hashimoto’s include muscular weakness and lack of stamina.  Another potential symptom is associated with malabsorption of vitamins, like B1 (Thiamin).   You know what B1 does?  It allows your body to convert carbohydrates to energy.   One studied showed that MONSTER doses of B1 made a big difference in the way Hashimoto’s patients felt.   When you take a monster dose, even if little is absorbed (the rest is excreted in urine), you are closer to getting a “normal” amount.   I started supplementing this week!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Snowpocalypse: Land Between the Lakes Trail 23K Race Report

Six days before the LBL trail 23K, marathon, 60K and 50-miler, the Land Between the Lakes area in Kentucky received 3 inches of ice topped by 4 inches of snow.  Some melting had occurred on Thursday and Friday in areas that receive sun, leaving behind a MESS of some hard-packed snowy areas with about 4 inches of snow and ice, some soft snowy/slushy areas, and lots of runoff and mud from the melted snow. However, I hadn't previewed the trail prior to the race to see how much snow remained, so I didn't really know what awaited me!

I spent the night before the race in Grand Rivers and had a wonderful dinner with some very cool trail runners from all over.  I only knew two of the people at our table of nine, but we were all quickly friends. It is funny--meet a runner for the very first time and immediately have a thousand things to talk about.  I love the running community so much.  One gentleman at our table was one I had passed some miles with at my last trail race two weeks ago.  The trail-running community is fairly small!

I tossed and turned for maybe 3 hours in my very own queen-sized bed and then gave up at 3:55 a.m., an hour before my alarm was set to go off.  I rarely sleep well before races!   Our hotel was super race-friendly, and they started serving breakfast at 4:30 a.m.   I started with coffee.  Of course.  4:30 a.m. selfie:

I only had to drive five minutes to the race start.  As I parked my car at 6:00 in the morning in downtown Grand Rivers, I should have had an inkling of what was to come.  Walking the quarter-mile from the parking area to the start, I had to skate across solid sheets of ice and step across mounds of plowed snow.

The first mile or so was on a main road, so it was clear.  Then we turned onto a side road that was solid ice!  From there we turned onto the 11-mile Canal Loop Trail, and I was surprised it looked like this:

The hard-packed snow was runnable, but it was treacherous.  It would be very easy to slide off down that embankment!

Throughout the race, there were 10 stream crossings!   We'd slip and slide down a snowy embankment, wade through 4-5 inches of mud, attempt to jump across the stream (with varying degrees of success!), and then hike up the slippery, snowy other side in our now muddy and possibly wet shoes.  There was certainly no danger of getting lost.  Just follow the dirty snow!

I was pretty happy that my stream crossings were successful and my shoes stayed dry through mile 7.   However, after that, my left shoe and sock were soaked during a stream crossing.  Then a few minutes later, both were soaked.  Icy melted snow water is pretty darn COLD on your feet!

Somewhere after the 10K point, I ran into my friend Dawn and we ran most of the rest of the race together. She is from Toronto, and running in the snow wasn't foreign to her.  We chatted and made the best of a tough situation!  Somewhere around mile 9, I turned to say something to her, then when I turned back around, I lost my footing on an uneven snowbank and fell right over.  It wasn't a graceful or an epically cool fall.  I just fell over onto the snow.  It was my only fall of the day, shockingly!

Also about mile 9, the temp started heating up and the hard-packed snow was no more.  It was a soft, slushy kind of snow that your shoes sink deeply into with every step.

It was also around this point that I realized how tired I was from fighting the snow.  If you've ever run in sand, it was like that at times---except the sand was slippery and made your feet cold!   Dawn and I started hiking the uphills at this point.  I couldn't get any traction at all!

At mile 11, I realized something startling:  my feet were numb.  Both of them.  Completely.  I could not feel my toes.  Of course, they'd been wet and immersed in snow and mud for many miles at this point!  Getting pretty sloppy:

 I kept plugging along though, numb feet and all.  I knew we were almost done with the trail and waited expectantly to see pavement as the last 1.7 miles were on the road back into town.

PAVEMENT NEVER LOOKED SO GOOD!   I exited the trail and turned down the still ice-covered side road, then I was back on the main road.   We had to go up two long, gradual hills.  Last year, those hills disheartened me.  I had run a terrible race and felt awful at that point.  I basically walked the whole 1.7 miles.  This year, I EMBRACED those hills and made a deal with myself:  I will NOT walk on this home stretch.  And I didn't.  I also "chicked" four guys (passed them), but a girl also chicked me.   It does feel good to pass four men on the home stretch, I'm not going to lie!  

It took a while for me to get my road legs back, but finally by the end, I was able to get down almost to normal half-marathon pace.  My legs had taken a beating though!

Last year in my terrible race on the same DRY trail, I finished in 3:07, head down, spirit broken.  This year, I finished in 3:06:55 with a happy and determined smile on my face. That is a WIN in my book!

As it turned out, it was probably the toughest 14 miles I've ever run.  The Canal Loop at LBL is fairly challenging anyway, but fighting with snow, mud and ice certainly added to the challenge.  I will definitely remember my snowy run!

Post race with my friend Dawn and new friend Rob: